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Texas Conservatorships

What is “Conservatorship” in a Child Custody Case?

In Texas, a person with court ordered custody of a child is called a “conservator.” It is helpful to think of “conservatorship” as who makes the decisions for the child. It does not mean how much time the child spends with each parent as that is dealt with separately in the “possession and access” section of a custody order.

There are three types of conservatorships:

Call (832) 781-0320 today to learn more about Conservatorships in Texas.

Joint Managing Conservatorship

Joint managing conservatorship means sharing the decisions for the child almost equally. In Texas, a joint managing conservatorship is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. This means that unless you or the other conservator have good reasons as to why one person needs to make most or all of the decisions, a court will most likely grant you a joint managing conservatorship.

Normally, one conservator still has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child within a geographic restriction. This conservator is usually called “the primary conservator” is sometimes However, conservators can also agree that no one has this right and instead restrict the child’s residence in some other way.

All other decisions in a joint managing conservatorship besides the primary residence of the child are usually jointly decided. Sometimes, a court will order a “tie-breaker” such as the child’s school counselor or primary care physician who can make the ultimate decision if the joint managing conservators do not agree.

Sole Managing Conservatorship

Unlike the joint managing conservatorship, a sole managing conservator gets exclusive rights to make all the decisions for the child.

A court may order a sole managing conservatorship for various reasons including but not limited to the existence of domestic violence, child neglect or abuse, the child’s needs, or home environment and stability. It is important to note that sole managing conservatorship may still mean the other conservator gets a possession order of some kind.

Possessory Conservatorship

A parent who is neither of the managing conservators above and only has rights to possession and access of a child is called a possessory conservator. A possessory conservator may still have certain rights and duties pertaining to the child but will not have any decision-making rights.

Rights and Duties of a Parent or Conservator under the Texas Family Code

A parent appointed as conservator of a child has the following rights at all times to:

  • receive information from any other conservator concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare;
  • confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  • access to the child’s medical, dental, psychological and educational records;
  • consult with the child’s physician, dentist, or psychologist;
  • consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
  • attend school activities;
  • be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
  • consent to medical, dental and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and
  • manage a child’s estate that created by the parent or the parent’s family.

Additionally, there are several standard rights and duties of a conservator during periods of possession:

  • duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  • duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
  • right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and
  • right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.

Additional Rights Provided by Texas Family Code

Chapter 151 of the Texas Family Code provides that one or both parents of a child has the following additional rights and below. Note that these are the rights and duties are what are divided in a conservatorship:

  1. The right to designate the primary residence of the child;
  2. The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  3. The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
  4. The right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;
  5. The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  6. The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  7. The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  8. The right to the services and earnings of the child;
  9. Except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government; and
  10. The right to: (A) apply for a passport for the child; (B) renew the child’s passport; and (C) maintain possession of the child’s passport.

The main decision-making rights from above that are the most likely to come up when sharing custody are:

  • The right to designate the primary residence of the child;
  • The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  • The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment; and 
  • The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;

If you need help figuring out conservatorship, you should consult with an attorney who has knowledge about the way conservatorships and the family law court system work. Call (832) 781-0320 today.

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